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Фантастика. Фэнтези
   Зарубежная фантастика
      William Gibson. Neuromancer -
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He replaced the panel, along with a single hexhead to hold it in place. The black package had drifted aft before he'd finished. He thumbed open the vacuum valves on the workbelt's gray pads and freed himself, retrieving the thing he'd removed. He kicked back, gliding over his instruments--a green docking diagram pulsed on his central screen--and snagged the frame of Case's g-web. He pulled himself down and picked at the tape of his package with a thick, chipped thumbnail. "Some man in China say th' truth comes out this," he said, unwrapping an ancient, oilslick ъemington automatic shotgun, its barrel chopped off a few millimeters in front of the battered forestock. The shoulderstock had been removed entirely, re- placed with a wooden pistolgrip wound with dull black tape. He smelled of sweat and ganja. "That the only one you got?" "Sure, mon," he said, wiping oil from the black barrel with a red cloth, the black poly wrapping bunched around the pis- tolgrip in his other hand, "I an' I th' ъastafarian navy, believe it." Case pulled the trodes down across his forehead. He'd never bothered to put the Texas catheter back on; at least he could take a real piss in the Villa Straylight, even if it was his last. He jacked in. x x x "Hey," the construct said, "ol' Peter's totally apeshit, huh?" They seemed to be part of the Tessier-Ashpool ice now; the emerald arches had widened, grown together, become a solid mass. Green predominated in the planes of the Chinese program that surrounded them. "Gettin' close, Dixie?" "ъeal close. Need you soon." "Listen, Dix. Wintermute says Kuang's set itself up solid in our Hosaka. I'm going to have to jack you and my deck out of the Circuit, haul you into Straylight, and plug you back in, into the custodial program there, Wintermute says. Says the Kuang virus will be all through there. Then we run from inside through the Straylight net." "Wonderful," the Flatline said, "I never did like to do any- thing simple when I could do it ass-backwards." Case flipped. Into her darkness, a churning synaesthesia, where her pain was the taste of old iron, scent of melon, wings of a moth brushing her cheek. She was unconscious, and he was barred from her dreams. When the optic chip flared, the alphanumerics were haloed, each one ringed with a faint pink aura. 07:29:40. "I'm very unhappy with this, Peter." 3Jane's voice seemed to arrive from a hollow distance. Molly could hear, he realized, then corrected himself. The simstim unit was intact and still in place; he could feel it digging against her ribs. Her ears registered the vibrations of the girl's voice. ъiviera said some- thing brief and indistinct. "But I don't," she said, "and it isn't fun. Hideo will bring a medical unit down from intensive care, but this needs a surgeon." There was a silence. Very distinctly, Case heard the water lap against the side of the pool. "What was that you were telling her, when I came back?" ъiviera was very close now. "About my mother. She asked me to. I think she was in shock, aside from Hideo's injection. Why did you do that to her?" "I wanted to see if they would break." "One did. When she comes around--if she comes around-- we'll see what color her eyes are." "She's extremely dangerous. Too dangerous. If I hadn't been here to distract her, to throw up Ashpool to distract her and my own Hideo to draw her little bomb, where would you be? In her power." "No," 3Jane said, "there was Hideo. I don't think you quite understand about Hideo. She does, evidently." "Like a drink?" "Wine. The white." Case jacked out. Maelcum was hunched over Garvey's controls, tapping out commands for a docking sequence. The module's central screen displayed a fixed red square that represented the Straylight dock. Garvey was a larger square, green, that shrank slowly, wavering from side to side with Maelcum's commands. To the left, a smaller screen displayed a skeletal graphic of Garvey and Haniwa as they approached the curvature of the spindle. "We got an hour, man," Case said, pulling the ribbon of fiberoptics from the Hosaka. His deck's back-up batteries were good for ninety minutes, but the Flatline's construct would be an additional drain. He worked quickly, mechanically, fasten- ing the construct to the bottom of the Ono-Sendai with micro- pore tape. Maelcum's workbelt drifted past. He snagged it, unclipped the two lengths of shock cord, with their gray rec- tangular suction pads, and hooked the jaws of one clip through the other. He held the pads against the sides of his deck and worked the thumb lever that created suction. With the deck, construct, and improvised shoulder strap suspended in front of him, he struggled into his leather jacket, checking the contents of his pockets. The passport Armitage had given him, the bank chip in the same name, the credit chip he'd been issued when he'd entered Freeside, two derms of the betaphenethylamine he'd bought from Bruce, a roll of New Yen, half a pack of Yeheyuans, and the shuriken. He tossed the Freeside chip over his shoulders, heard it click off the ъussian scrubber. He was about to do the same with the steel star, but the rebounding credit chip clipped the back of his skull, spun off, struck the ceiling, and tumbled past Maelcum's left shoulder. The Zionite interrupted his piloting to glare back at him. Case looked at the shuriken, then tucked it into his jacket pocket, hearing the lining tear. "You missin' th' Mute, mon," Maelcum said. "Mute say he messin' th' security for Garvey. Garvey dockin' as 'nother boat, boat they 'spectin' out of Babylon. Mute broadcastin' codes for us." "We gonna wear the suits?" "Too heavy." Maelcum shrugged. "Stay in web 'til I tell you." He tapped a final sequence into the module and grabbed the worn pink handholds on either side of the navigation board. Case saw the green square shrink a final few millimeters to overlap the red square. On the smaller screen, Haniwa lowered her bow to miss the curve of the spindle and was snared. Garvey was still slung beneath her like a captive grub. The tug rang, shuddered. Two stylized arms sprang out to grip the slender wasp shape. Straylight extruded a tentative yellow rectangle that curved, groping past Haniwa for Garvey. There was a scraping sound from the bow, beyond the trem- bling fronds of caulk. "Mon," Maelcum said, "mind we got gravity." A dozen small objects struck the floor of the cabin simultaneously, as though drawn there by a magnet. Case gasped as his internal organs were pulled into a different configuration. The deck and construct had fallen painfully to his lap. They were attached to the spindle now, rotating with it. Maelcum spread his arms, flexed tension from his shoulders, and removed his purple dreadbag, shaking out his locks. "Come now, mon, if you seh time be mos' precious." 19 The Villa Straylight was a parasitic structure, Case reminded himself, as he stepped past the tendrils of caulk and through Marcus Garvey's forward hatch. Straylight bled air and water out of Freeside, and had no ecosystem of its own. The gangway tube the dock had extended was a more elab- orate version of the one he'd tumbled through to reach Haniwa, designed for use in the spindle's rotation gravity. A corrugated tunnel, articulated by integral hydraulic members, each seg- ment ringed with a loop of tough, nonslip plastic, the loops serving as the rungs of a ladder. The gangway had snaked its way around Haniwa; it was horizontal , where it joined Garvey' s lock, but curved up sharply and to the left, a vertical climb around the curvature of the yacht's hull. Maelcum was already making his way up the rings, pulling himself up with his left hand, the ъemington in his right. He wore a stained pair of baggy fatigues, his sleeveless green nylon jacket, and a pair of ragged canvas sneakers with bright red soles. The gangway shifted slightly, each time he climbed to another ring. The clips on Case's makeshift strap dug into his shoulder with the weight of the Ono-Sendai and the Flatline's construct. All he felt now was fear, a generalized dread. He pushed it away, forcing himself to replay Armitage's lecture on the spin- dle and Villa Straylight. He started climbing. Freeside's eco- system was limited, not closed. Zion was a closed system, capable of cycling for years without the introduction of external materials. Freeside produced its own air and water, but relied on constant shipments of food, on the regular augmentation of soil nutrients. The Villa Straylight produced nothing at all. "Mon," Maelcum said quietly, "get up here, 'side me." Case edged sideways on the circular ladder and climbed the last few rungs. The gangway ended in a smooth, slightly convex hatch, two meters in diameter. The hydraulic members of the tube vanished into flexible housings set into the frame of the hatch. "So what do we--" Case's mouth shut as the hatch swung up, a slight differential in pressure puffing fine grit into his eyes. Maelcum scrambled up, over the edge, and Case heard the tiny click of the ъemington's safety being released. "You th' mon in th' hurry...." Maelcum whispered, crouching there. Then Case was beside him. The hatch was centered in a round, vaulted chamber floored with blue nonslip plastic tiles. Maelcum nudged him, pointed, and he saw a monitor set into a curved wall. On the screen, a tall young man with the Tessier-Ashpool features was brushing something from the sleeves of his dark suitcoat. He stood beside an identical hatch, in an identical chamber. "Very sorry, sir," said a voice from a grid centered above the hatch. Case glanced up. "Expected you later, at the axial dock. One moment, please." On the monitor, the young man tossed his head impatiently. Maelcum spun as a door slid open to their left, the shotgun ready. A small Eurasian in orange coveralls stepped through and goggled at them. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He closed his mouth. Case glanced at the monitor. Blank. "Who?" the man managed. "The ъastafarian navy," Case said, standing up, the cyber- space deck banging against his hip, "and all we want's a jack into your custodial system." The man swallowed. "Is this a test? It's a loyalty check. It must be a loyalty check." He wiped the palms of his hands on the thighs of his orange suit. "No, mon, this a real one." Maelcum came up out of his crouch with the ъemington pointed at the Eurasian's face. "You move it." They followed the man back through the door, into a corridor whose polished concrete walls and irregular floor of overlap- ping carpets were perfectly familiar to Case. "Pretty rugs," Maelcum said, prodding the man in the back. "Smell like church." They came to another monitor, an antique Sony, this one mounted above a console with a keyboard and a complex array of jack panels. The screen lit as they halted, the Finn grinning tensely out at them from what seemed to be the front room of Metro Holografix. "Okay," he said, "Maelcum takes this guy down the corridor to the open locker door, sticks him in there, I'll lock it. Case, you want the fifth socket from the left, top panel. There's adaptor plugs in the cabinet under the console. Needs Ono-Sendai twenty-point into Hitachi forty." As Mael- cum nudged his captive along, Case knelt and fumbled through an assortment of plugs, finally coming up with the one he needed. With his deck jacked into the adaptor, he paused. "Do you have to look like that, man?" he asked the face on the screen. The Finn was erased a line at a time by the image of Lonny Zone against a wall of peeling Japanese posters. "Anything you want, baby," Zone drawled, "just hop it for Lonny...." "No," Case said, "use the Finn." As the Zone image van- ished, he shoved the Hitachi adaptor into its socket and settled the trodes across his forehead. "What kept you?" the Flatline asked, and laughed. "Told you don't do that," Case said. "Joke, boy," the construct said, "zero time lapse for me. Lemme see what we got here...." The Kuang program was green, exactly the shade of the T-A ice. Even as Case watched, it grew gradually more opaque, although he could see the black-mirrored shark thing clearly when he looked up. The fracture lines and hallucinations were gone now, and the thing looked real as Marcus Garvey, a wingless antique jet, its smooth skin plated with black chrome. "ъight on," the Flatline said. "ъight," Case said, and flipped. "--like that. I'm sorry," 3Jane was saying, as she bandaged Molly's head. "Our unit says no concussion, no permanent damage to the eye. You didn't know him very well, before you came here?" "Didn't know him at all," Molly said bleakly. She was on her back on a high bed or padded table. Case couldn't feel the injured leg. The synaesthetic effect of the original injection seemed to have worn off. The black ball was gone, but her hands were immobilized by soft straps she couldn't see. "He wants to kill you." "Figures," Molly said, staring up at the rough ceiling past a very bright light. "I don't think I want him to," 3Jane said, and Molly pain- fully turned her head to look up into the dark eyes. "Don't play with me," she said. "But I think I might like to," 3Jane said, and bent to kiss her forehead, brushing the hair back with a warm hand. There were smears of blood on her pale djellaba. "Where's he gone now?" Molly asked. "Another injection, probably," 3Jane said, straightening up. "He was quite impatient for your arrival. I think it might be fun to nurse you back to health, Molly." She smiled, absently wiping a bloody hand down the front of the robe. "Your leg will need to be reset, but we can arrange that." "What about Peter?" "Peter." She gave her head a little shake. A strand of dark hair came loose, fell across her forehead. "Peter has become rather boring. I find drug use in general to be boring." She giggled. "In others, at any rate. My father was a dedicated abuser, as you must have seen." Molly tensed. "Don't alarm yourself." 3Jane's fingers brushed the skin above the waistband of the leather jeans. "His suicide was the result of my having manipulated the safety margins of his freeze. I'd never actually met him, you know. I was decanted after he last went down to sleep. But I did know him very well. The cores know everything. I watched him kill my mother. I'll show you that, when you're better. He strangles her in bed." "Why did he kill her?" Her unbandaged eye focused on the girl's face. "He couldn't accept the direction she intended for our fam- ily. She commissioned the construction of our artificial intel- ligences. She was quite a visionary. She imagined us in a symbiotic relationship with the Al's, our corporate decisions made for us. Our conscious decisions, I should say. Tessier- Ashpool would be immortal, a hive, each of us units of a larger entity . Fascinating . I'll play her tapes for you, nearly a thousand hours. But I've never understood her, really, and with her death, her direction was lost. All direction was lost, and we began to burrow into ourselves. Now we seldom come out. I'm the exception there." "You said you were trying to kill the old man? You fiddled his cryogenic programs?" 3Jane nodded. "I had help. From a ghost. That was what I thought when I was very young, that there were ghosts in the corporate cores. Voices. One of them was what you call Win- termute, which is the Turing code for our Berne Al, although the entity manipulating you is a sort of subprogram." "One of them? There's more?" "One other. But that one hasn't spoken to me in years. It gave up, I think. I suspect that both represent the fruition of certain capacities my mother ordered designed into the original software, but she was an extremely secretive woman when she felt it necessary. Here. Drink." She put a flexible plastic tube to Molly's lips. "Water. Only a little." "Jane, love," ъiviera asked cheerfully, from somewhere out of sight, "are you enjoying yourself?" "Leave us alone, Peter." "Playing doctor...." Suddenly Molly stared into her own face, the image suspended ten centimeters from her nose. There were no bandages. The left implant was shattered, a long finger of silvered plastic driven deep in a socket that was an inverted pool of blood. "Hideo," 3Jane said, stroking Molly's stomach, "hurt Peter if he doesn't go away. Go and swim, Peter." The projection vanished. 07:58:40, in the darkness of the bandaged eye. "He said you know the code. Peter said. Wintermute needs the code." Case was suddenly aware of the Chubb key that lay on its nylon thong, against the inner curve of her left breast. "Yes," 3Jane said, withdrawing her hand, "I do. I learned it as a child. I think I learned it in a dream.... Or somewhere in the thousand hours of my mother's diaries. But I think that Peter has a point, in urging me not to surrender it. There would be Turing to contend with, if I read all this correctly, and ghosts are nothing if not capricious." Case jacked out. "Strange little customer, huh?" The Finn grinned at Case from the old Sony. Case shrugged. He saw Maelcum coming back along the corridor with the ъemington at his side. The Zionite was smil- ing, his head bobbing to a rhythm Case couldn't hear. A pair of thin yellow leads ran from his ears to a side pocket in his sleeveless jacket. "Dub, mon," Maelcum said. "You're fucking crazy," Case told him. "Hear okay, mon. ъighteous dub." "Hey, guys," the Finn said, "on your toes. Here comes your transportation. I can't finesse many numbers as smooth as the pic of 8Jean that conned your doorman, but I can get you a ride over to 3Jane's place." Case was pulling the adaptor from its socket when the rid- erless service cart swiveled into sight, under the graceless con- crete arch marking the far end of their corridor. It might have been the one his Africans had ridden, but if it was, they were gone now. Just behind the back of the low padded seat, its tiny manipulators gripping the upholstery, the little Braun was steadily winking its red LED. "Bus to catch," Case said to Maelcum. 20 He'd lost his anger again. He missed it. The little cart was crowded: Maelcum, the ъemington across his knees, and Case, deck and construct against his chest. The cart was operating at speeds it hadn't been designed for; it was top heavy, cornering, and Maelcum had taken to leaning out in the direction of the turns. This presented no problem when the thing took lefts, because Case sat on the right, but in the right turns the Zionite had to lean across Case and his gear, crushing him against the seat. He had no idea where they were. Everything was familiar, but he couldn't be sure he'd seen any particular stretch before. A curving hallway lined with wooden showcases displayed collections he was certain he'd never seen: the skulls of large birds, coins, masks of beaten silver. The service cart's six tires were silent on the layered carpets. There was only the whine of the electric motor and an occasional faint burst of Zion dub, from the foam beads in Maelcum's ears, as he lunged past Case to counter a sharp right. The deck and the construct kept press- ing the shuriken in his jacket pocket into his hip. "You got a watch?" he asked Maelcum. The Zionite shook his locks. "Time be time." "Jesus," Case said, and closed his eyes. The Braun scuttled over mounded carpets and tapped one of its padded claws against an oversized rectangular door of dark battered wood. Behind them, the cart sizzled and shot blue sparks from a louvered panel. The sparks struck the carpet beneath the cart and Case smelled scorched wool. "This th'

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